NHL approves Oilers sale

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

OTTAWA -- A new era in Edmonton Oilers hockey was ushered in with a gavel, not a rubber stamp, yesterday when the NHL board of governors gave Daryl Katz its unanimous support.

The final formality means Katz will officially take possession of the hockey club June 30. He has an official media conference - his first since launching the bid last year - on July 2.

"I am very pleased to have received the board of governors' unanimous approval," Katz said in an e-mail to reporters yesterday. "We look forward to closing the transaction on or before June 30 and gearing up for the coming season."

Oilers president Patrick LaForge, in New York for the meeting, said the governors, having completed their due diligence on Katz and the sale, OK'd the $200 million transfer in a matter of seconds.

"(Flames governor) Harley Hotchkiss made the motion, Boston seconded it, they put it to a vote, said 'All in favour.' It was unanimous. The gavel hit the table and that was that."

LaForge believes having Calgary and Boston set the vote in motion was meant to be symbolic.

"I believe it was," he said. "Harley will never say that, that's just the kind of person he is, but I believe it was. Same with Boston, an Original Six team, seconding the motion. That was a nice touch."

All that's left now is for Katz to close the deal with the 34 members of the Edmonton Investors Group.

Katz, a reclusive 46-year-old Edmontonian, began his quest for the Oilers in March of 2007 with an initial offer of $145 million. After a series of escalating offers, the EIG finally agreed to sell for $200 million.

The franchise has come a long way since the mid '90s, when it was a money loser, playing to half empty buildings and hanging by a thread.

"I wouldn't have believed it would have survived at such a high level, 120 straight sellouts, a value of $200 million," said LaForge. "When they (EIG) bought it, it was pretty much a gift for the city of Edmonton. I'm sure none of them thought they'd ever see that money again."

LaForge also credits GM Kevin Lowe for his efforts over the past years.

"He had to cut budgets when he didn't want to, he had to trade players when he didn't want to and he never complained about it once.

"The fans stayed with the team, bought tickets ... a lot of good things happened to get the team to where it is now, the next chapter."

Katz has been tight-lipped about his plans for the club, but said it will benefit from more aggressive, hands-on management and fewer committee meetings.

He's also pledged $100 million for a new downtown arena, promised to build a practice facility and said he'll spend the maximum allowed under the salary cap.

His July 2 coming-out party will be eagerly anticipated by Oilers fans who've been waiting for some hint of what the new owner has in store for their team.

"He's not a very public person," said LaForge. "He likes his privacy - that's Daryl, it's his style. But this will be his chance to say what he wants to say."


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